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Concerns About the e5 Movement

SEE THE NEW NOTES AT END OF POST

fullofhimself.jpgBefore I begin, I have to acknowledge that the tragedy of the Macfarlane breakup and Habisohn’s involvement (he is the founder of e5) has colored my remarks about the e5 movement. I am a hardliner against divorce and have an immediate knee-jerk reaction to anyone or anything that seems to compromise the indissolubility of marriage.

Here is an email that has become part of the record (which elicited a response from Cardinal George and his theological advisor, Rev. Lodge):

I have a friend whose husband regularly corresponds with Habisohn and has signed up for his e5 group. My friend is having serious marital problems and in a personal message from Habisohn to my friend, he wrote, “Stop with the selfish pursuits of your own desires. Your desires might just be the worst thing for you. And ultimately its his [your husband’s] duty under God to discern such things. He has to answer to God for you.” (7/3/03)

The “e5” fasting program is taken from Ephesians 5: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” Here is how this regimen from Steve Habisohn is explained by Bud MacFarlane, Jr.: “Jesus gave up his body for his bride, the Church, and we give up our bodies for our brides through fasting. It’s a perfectly chivalrous act, and it will make the woman in your life feel like a princess.”

It is not clear how such a penance “directly” builds up or supports a marriage. While certainly there are benefits to fasting as part of our mortification and penance as Catholics, many of us are left scratching our heads as to how it can cause a drastic transformation or how it signifies “a man taking on suffering to help a woman.” The middle term in all of this seems to be missing. The sacrifices to which the Letter to the Ephesians alludes come with ordinary fidelity and human mortality– these are connected with the cross of Jesus. The husband is told that he should be as willing to lay down his life for his wife as Christ did for his Church. However, this does NOT deny reciprocity on the wife’s behalf. St. Paul’s understanding of the wife’s subjection or submission is a reminder that she must also be willing to sacrifice everything for her beloved. The teaching about the husband’s headship does not deny the wife’s complementary sacrifices for her husband. It is an important point where I find the purported e5 perspective to be somewhat shallow and one-sided. In any case, if we are only talking about once-a-month fasting, then it seems to be a harmless business; but, is it more than this?

Macfarlane cites a series of themes in the e5 movement:

NO TALK – He contrasts this step with being a man of action.

I would submit that men should both talk and act. Action can be misconstrued without clear communication, first. Men err in removing themselves from their wives and in trying to solve their problems unilaterally. This almost never works. While we certainly need quiet time for prayer, do not underestimate constructive talking (dialogue) with the spouse. Many times marriages fail because of poor communication skills.

We should avoid the “passive-aggressive” route in dealing with our shared problems. An example of this is when one spouse is silent because of rage or disappointment. One can also “punish” the spouse in indirect ways. Imagine a response like this: “Having a wife like you forces me to do extra penance and fasting just to stay with you!” Dialogue that does not tear down the other, sometimes orchestrated by a third party counselor, can be quite helpful in opening the lines of communication for healing and growth. It is okay to be a man of action, but the action must be appropriate. The man of action is also one who communicates clearly and appropriately– with the beloved and with God.

I am a big fan of married couples praying together, offering up petitions of love and caring for one another. Why not?

When I went to the e5 Website, I read this:

“Do I tell my wife? There are two answers No and Yes. It really depends on your situation. By telling one’s wife one might risk spiritual pride or she may even discourage you. However, in other situations by telling one’s wife you are allowing her to participate in the e5 Women part of e5 Men. She can actively pray to receive God’s graces merited for her. Often wives are greatly encouraged and gain new hope by knowing that their husband is laying down his body for her. I’m sure there are infinite reasons for both approaches depending on the situation. These are just examples to help you start thinking of the specifics of your situation. It’s ultimately your call.”

Isn’t this a bit crazy? What about the family supper table, the meal that in a Christian home is a “figure” pointing to the Eucharist? What about the wife’s concern over the details of that meal and her concern for her family?

CALLING ALL MEN – I would acknowledge that most of us have hurt the women in our lives but is the e5 strategy really a comprehensive curative? As I said before, fasting as part of our prayer life is fine, but it is not in itself sufficient to heal marital problems and there is no direct or immediate tie-in with Ephesians 5.

threedandies.jpgBANDS OF BROTHERS – Maybe I am misconstruing this movement, but as I read Macfarlane’s article I am increasingly anxious with the rationalization that fuels it. Is it merely an all boys’ club of men fasting for their wives, future wives, and girlfriends? Fasting may sometimes be the easy road out and not a true scaling of the cross at all. You can fast all you want and still let your women down.

TENS OF THOUSANDS – Macfarlane becomes a virtual cheerleader for the e5 Men. He writes, “Imagine the power of having such a vast army suffering for your bride.” It may be an exageration on my part, but he speaks as if a marriage can be saved by supernatural intervention alone.

Marriages are saved neither by committee nor by warfare. They are saved by love, mutual respect, and genuine interpersonal sacrifice. Suffering means loving your spouse even when he or she does not seem all that lovable. It means working long hard hours to keep a roof over your heads, clothes on your bodies, and food in the stomachs of your children. For the husband, his joy is his wife’s happiness and the wellbeing of his children. You do not need an army of men suffering and fasting for your wife. You need one man, husband and father, to sit at the table with her for dinner and thank the good Lord for all that he has done for you.

FORTRESS OF FLESH – Fasting can mean a degree of suffering, but so can dieting. What changes their meaning is the intention.

The devil hates true mortification and prayer. We sacrifice in the flesh to live more in the spirit. But, it is not magic. Further, the devil can take advantage of this mentality and reverse matters if we are not careful—urging us to hate our flesh or to substitute fasting for other obligations in our faith and family life.

Macfarlane writes: “When you fast, you and Christ form a fortress that protects the woman you love.” It is a sweet sentiment, but theologically how does it work? I still do not see it. How does it protect her? If anything, the way this e5 business is explained in the article, it seems to cut her out of the equation.

SUPERNATURAL FIREPOWER – Yes, adopting the military analogy in vogue here, we do need spiritual ammo. As Catholics this armory is replenished by God from many sources: fruitful prayer, the depository of grace merited by the saints, the sacramental life, and ultimately the redemptive sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. We are alerted to the dangers posed by the devil, the flesh and the world. As with his books, Macfarlane sees things in sweeping apocalyptic terms. This is okay as one element, however, the personal battles we face are rooted in the practical here-and-now.

We must be careful not to focus our attention so deeply into the metaphysical and eternal that we lose sight of the physical and temporal. Practically speaking, too often, lacking what one needs in him- or herself, we look elsewhere.

Yes, we trust in God’s protection and we cooperate with it. But look at what he says in his article:

“Our Lord did not merely suggest that some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting. Guys, listen up. As a man you will find it extremely satisfying to pull back that bolt, calmly load a Wednesday of bread and water into the chamber, then start pumping round after round into the soft white underbelly of the Dragon of Death. This is war, and you and I were made for war. It never gets easy, but that soft thud you are going to hear is the sweet sound of the dragon, which has been hurting your wife, hitting the ground.”

Cough…swallow…say, what? He concludes by saying that this dragon might be either your anger or the devil; however, until he makes this qualification, one might wonder if he is talking about his wife?

I have done a lot of counseling over the years and can attest that not all dragons are demonic, many of them are human, male and female. Admittedly, I am perplexed how Macfarlane’s own public actions toward his wife and family can be reconciled with what he says here. But enough has been said about that, if not too much.

As a seminarian, my friends and I used to fast on Monday nights. However, we never saw it in such violent and militant terms. We called our efforts a FASTING FOR PEACE. We remembered all those who were suffering injustice and we prayed for the right to life of the unborn. We fasted for holiness, praying that God might wean us away from his gifts so that we might better focus upon the giver.

Macfarlane sees everything in Apocalyptic terms—even his marriage—and the enemy are “the forces of evil”. Many Catholics, including dear friends, were caught up in this but assuredly relieved when the “three days of darkness” hailed for the millennium failed to materialize, a peculiar fascination that reminded me of the faulty timetable espoused by the Jehovah Witness cult.

Imagery and symbolic language has great value but can sometimes be used for avoidance and misdirection. Many disappointed fans, for instance, are quick to suggest that Macfarlane is under demonic oppression and may need exorcism. His own personal family tragedy seems utterly unbelievable to them. While we can never totally discount the work of Satan, I find that concupiscence and selfishness are the essential culprits in our lives. I can offer no real explanation to soothe their concern for a man so admired and for whom we all care about. What we can do is pray, that at least, is one intrusion that our Lord does allow us into the personal lives of others.

Conversely, I shudder to think that being critical of e5 might get me charged with demonic entanglement. Other than the struggle with my own venial sins, I can assure the reader that I am not involved with the conspiracy of cosmic powers and evil men who seek to keep men of faith “impotent”.

Forget the dragon for a moment. Forget the loaded gun. Marriages are not principally about powers and principalities, they are about dirty diapers, crying babies, doctors’ bills, making beds, fixing the car, going to church as a family, sleeping as husband and wife naked together under the covers, and so much more. There, I have said it.

missterese.jpgSPECIAL FORCES – Other than the first Wednesday of the month, he argues that men can fast for other women on subsequent Wednesdays.

The connection to Scripture is still sketchy and the benefits inconclusive. I am surprised that this article remains on his site given his own witness. Again, notice the military view– fasting men are compared to military special forces, as if a SWAT team is the answer to marriage problems.

It might sound silly, but some wives might just prefer to have their husband at the family dinner table. I have found that wives and mothers are acutely concerned about the bodies of their charges, the husband and children. A wife might readily become concerned, if her husband’s fasting practices expanded and he risked his health. It seems to me that the e5 regimen is something about which a husband and wife must agree and should not be adopted by men unilaterally. Would not a weekly family fast be better, even if not as severe as that proposed by e5?

RECEIVING THE BODY – Notice once more how the spouse is discussed as someone who up to now has been excluded from this regimen of fasting and supposedly prayer, although the article does not mention it so far. He writes: “Your wife will soon discover that a major change is taking place and will want to know how she can be a part of e5 Men.”

This is very presumptuous to say the least. He says that their contribution is profound and complimentary, but what is it? He writes: “Many e5 Women therefore attend Mass on the first Wednesday to mystically receive the sacrifice of our body [e5 Men] by receiving Christ in the Eucharist.”

As a priest, I offer the Mass every day and yet this is an odd twist I have never encountered before. I would suggest that men and women alike would do better to more frequently attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. Both can fast when they would like and do so for each other, while safeguarding their health. The strange business here is that Macfarlane says that the women are receiving the body of these e5 fasting men when they receive our Lord in Holy Communion. I would not say that. They receive Jesus, body, soul, humanity and divinity. The sacramental presence is real. Any kind of “mystical” reception of others, even the husband, clouds the issue and does not have Church sanction as Catholic teaching. The closest thing to it is from St. Augustine when he says that in holy communion we receive our own mystery. But, he is talking about our membership in the the mystical body of Christ.

The sacrifice of the flesh in marriage is in the toil that family life entails. Ideally, any spiritual donation of the body should come along with the physical union of the spouses. Sexual union of husband and wife signifies the true self-donation. They are saying to each other, “I belong to you. I am yours. These arms and hands, these legs and feet, these locks of hair, these eyes that adore you, these lips that hunger to kiss you– everything that I am– is yours.” Our Lord identifies himself with the beloved so that the love of husband and wife finds true sacramental expression. It is raised to the level of prayer.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES – MacFarlane says something that critics might judge as sexist, but such is a charge that has been leveled at me, too: “The truth is women are the most beautiful creatures in God’s universe. We men know it. Women need our strength and protection.”

This is all fine and dandy, but would not a mother of a son say that her baby boy is the most beautiful creature in the universe? Assuredly so and thus it is best to avoid this kind of general license. Scholastic philosophers judged males as better reflecting an ideal humanity. Such claims do not fare well when examined objectively. They depend upon subjective aesthetics and changeable worldviews. Further, I have known some strong women who defended their husbands and nurtured and protected their children against great odds. Women may be even more capable and thus beautiful beyond the measure of skin and figure, than readily appreciated.

warriorprincess.jpg

Yes, it is true that men and women are not the same, and as much as society tries to lie about it, everything from clothing to books to perfume to movies to home-decorating makes it preeminently true that we are not. However, there is a common humanity and God-given dignity. We know equality in grace and are all called to holiness. Yes, the Scriptures speak of the man as the head of the home, but as Dr. Scott Hahn reminds us, the wife and mother is its heart.

YOU ARE A KING – Macfarlane writes: “The fact is, through baptism you were adopted into a royal family.” This is true, but not just men, but women, too.

We are anointed, “priest, prophet and king.” All of us are called to offer sacrifice, to witness and proclaim the truth, and to recognize the sanctity of life and our dignity as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, brothers and sisters to Christ the King.

A man may be appointed lord of his home, but his wife is the Queen. All families should be modeled upon the Holy Family. Husbands should show the same respect and offer the same support that Joseph gave Mary. Joseph was going to divorce Mary quietly until the meaning of the child of promise was explained to him by an angel in a dream. Mary and Joseph raised their Son in their home, together.

The Macfarlane divorce is a teaching moment. But it is important that we take from this public tragedy the right message.

  • Can you imagine Joseph trying to take Jesus away from Mary?
  • Would he forbid Mary to witness to her Son the lessons she knew as a daughter of Israel?
  • Would he abandon her and then strip her of dignity with a divorce that faulted her for “extreme cruelty” and “gross neglect of duty”?

Definitely not, and neither are these grounds for an annulment.

Couples who marry in the Church make a promise before God to remain faithful, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, until death do they part.

  • A real EPHESIANS 5 MAN does not follow a cult interpretation of inspired Scripture.
  • A real EPHESIANS 5 MAN knows that life is sometimes messy and that true love can bring joy and take us to the cross.
  • A real EPHESIANS 5 MAN lets his wife know every minute of every day that she belongs to him and he belongs to her.
  • A real EPHESIANS 5 MAN does not simply fight “for” his wife but “WITH” HIS WIFE—to make their marriage last and to help their children grow healthy, holy and wise.
  • A real EPHESIANS 5 MAN does not commit physical or verbal adultery with women or spiritual adultery with a ban of brothers.
  • A real EPHESIANS 5 Man does not seek to divorce his wife and the mother of his children– particularly against her will.

Men do not need an army of Kings, as the e5 men call themselves. Rather, they need to know that they share their crowns with their wives, one as king and the other as queen. There may be many thorns in those crowns, but if a marriage is real, none may take them off while there is still life. Even the crown of thorns worn by Jesus was not removed until he had breathed his last. And yet, the kingdom of Jesus is everlasting. We find some glimpse of it in every Christian home because the family is the little Church.

Macfarlane speaks of “men crucified with Christ for the women we love.” But men and women can also play the wrong part in the Greatest Story Ever Told.

Jesus was betrayed with a kiss and abandoned by those he loved. How many marriages have a spouse abandoned, even after public acclamations of affection?

Our Lord was cursed and called all sorts of names. Are not cruel and defaming charges part of the ordeal when marriages fail?

Jesus is stripped of his clothes and is virtually naked upon the cross. How many spouses have been reduced to poverty by divorce and large settlements?

Has not even Bai Macfarlane, for whatever reason, suffered the loss of her children? It is because of her situation that there is a tentative appraisal of e5 from the Church, albeit the Archdiocese of Chicago. Here are those documents as well as a few remarks from a brief interview.

Archdiocese of Chicago / Office of the Archbishop (Selection)
http://users.ameritech.net/webdocs/FrancisCardinalGeorge.htm

January 16, 2004

“Anyone can post information on the Internet – without any license or check for accuracy. This applies to interpretations of Scripture and to information about Church teaching as much as it applies to products that are advertised for sale. I am glad that you are asking about Mr. Habisohn’s ideas, since the fact that they are being communicated over the Internet give’s them no special credibility. Your letter was referred to me by Mrs. Else Radtke of our Family Ministries office, who has also spoken with the wife of the friend to whom you refer in this letter. I am very sorry to hear that a Catholic who claims to follow Mr. Habisohn’s way of living is now in the process of seeking a divorce from his spouse. I believe that the Holy Father’s commentary on Ephesians 5 makes it very clear that St. Paul’s intention was to draw husbands and wives closer to one another and to Christ in his Church, not to drive them apart. In this case, the harm done to spouse and children by divorce is far greater than any damage that could be done by a disagreement over a passage of Sacred Scripture.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago

REV. JOHN G. LODGE Responds at Cardinal George’s Request
http://users.ameritech.net/webdocs/Notes.htm

Should a wife orient her will to her husband’s will?

Most exegetes of Ephesians 5 — including Pope John Paul II — would not speak of an orientation of wills that was one way. The Pope is careful to discern the difference between the Church’s relationship to Christ and the wife’s relationship to her husband (Mulleris Dignitatem, 24):

This is especially true because the husband is called the “head” of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church; he is so in order to give “himself up for her” (Eph 5:25), and giving himself up for her means giving up even his own life. However, whereas in the relationship between Christ and the Church the subjection is only on the part of the Church, in the relationship between husband and wife the “subjection” is not one-sided but mutual.

A bit further on in the same section the Pope continues:

The apostolic letters are addressed to people living in an evironment marked by that same traditional way of thinking and acting. The ‘innovation’ of Christ is a fact: it constitutes the unambiguous content of the evangelical message and is the result of the Redemption. However, the awareness that in marriage there is mutual “subjection of the spouses out of reverence for Christ”, and not just that of the wife to the husband, must gradually establish itself in hearts, consciences, behavior and customs. This is a call which from that time onwards, does not cease to challenge succeeding generations; it is a call which people have to accept ever anew.

The Pope, then, is very careful to show how Eph 5:21 teaches an innovation in the relationship between men and women, a new way of reciprocity which has yet to fully take hold in many of today’s cultures. Any ‘orienting of wills’ should be reciprocal and mutual.

Is Steve Habisohn correct in that it is a husband’s duty to discern if his wife’s desires are good for her?

No. The gist of the argument in Ephesians 5 and in the thought of the Pope is that husband and wife should have a mutual sense of care for one another. At times that might mean respectfully and lovingly challenging or questioning the other, but neither spouse has a greater responsibility here than the other.

Mr. Habisohn has simply put out his shingle on the Web and asked for money. He has no special training or background other than his personal study of the Pope’s ideas surrounding the theology of the body. On the one hand, I agree with Mrs. Radtke that, when one looks over the material on his sites, there doesn’t seem to be too much with which to argue. He promotes material related to the Pope’s “Theology of the Body” and Natural Family Planning. Still, if (OMITTED) are accurate in their reporting of Habisohn’s letter to their friend, he over stepped his bounds. He should stay out of the marriage counseling business. Furthermore, his language in the letter he wrote their friend is no where supported in either Ephesians 5 or in the writings of John Paul.

ZENIT Interview with Steve Habisohn on the e5 Men’s Movement

In his interpretation of Ephesians 5. Habisohn states “In a complementary response of total self-gift, the wife orients her will to her husband’s to allow for his gift of self to be given freely. She becomes submissive — which literally means ‘under’ his ‘mission’ — to serve her needs.”

There you have it, I gave the founder of e5 the last word.

********************

My remarks about the Macfarlane matter, the issue of divorce, and an article about e5 have caused a flood of comments that I cannot continue to monitor. Some of them have called me irresponsible and in league with Satan. I am going to save a previous comment in the body of the post, but disable the comment feature. You can still send me emails, but I am increasingly uncomfortable with this discussion. It amazes me that people would fault Bai Macfarlane for fighting for her sacramental marriage and against the evil of divorce, particularly the no-fault variety.

As for the e5 business, it may have its merits, but I took “honest” exception to some things I read about it. I would certainly be willing to revisit the matter or even post honest and sympathetic material that would show how it is usually effective and in agreement with Catholic teaching. But, frankly, there is little information to be found and much of it dating back to 2003.

forrealfamily.jpgI will share with you one exceptional article about it that I discovered on the web. Published in a small area newsletter, it is the best that I have read on e3 so far.

PLEASE KNOW, that while I may come across as overly critical of e5, it is mostly because I am unhappy with how it is explained in the few sources nationally available. However, there is a beautiful essay by Dennis Murphy in LIFE CYCLES that presents a picture of e5 with which I could whole-heartedly accept and make my own.

He writes:

“We join our small suffering with the sufferings of Christ on the cross not only for the intention of being chaste for our wives but for being chaste for other good reasons. I, for example, also offer my fasting for the intentions of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. I try to follow the example of Saint Louis De Montfort by giving all to Mary, especially being chaste. I thought it was good to do something simple, and I knew that something like the fasting was coming for me…I wanted to participate in something meaningful especially regarding the sacredness of intimacy, which so much in our culture wants to trivialize. I struggle some Wednesdays more than others, but I don’t find it difficult to do especially when I think of Jesus suffering and crucified. My fasting is such a drop of water in His infinite ocean of love, but it is still my drop of love. It’s amazing that the Son of God and His Mother would even notice it, and they do.”

This is not only beautiful but spiritually meaty. Here is the substance and the middle term that I could not find clearly enunciated either by its founder or by Macfarlane. It also reflects something of simplicity and humility, which makes theology and a true appreciation of faith possible.

He goes on to say:

“As I have offered up my simple 24 hours of fasting on bread and water, I think of those not only in e5, but anyone who has fasted because the Lord said that some healings need prayer and fasting. The Lord also said that when He was gone, there would be time for fasting. Certainly the assault against chastity in our own wounded culture demands the response of prayer and fasting in order to beg healing from our most chaste Lord and His most chaste Mother. I believe that the e5 men and women who quietly offer up their little suffering join in God’s plan to counter the scandal of evil against chastity.”

This perspective upon e5 is one upon which I can whole-heartedy concur. He convinces me of its utility, at least in the manner that he understands and pursues it:

“Certainly the focus and motivation for any acts are rooted in the gifts of the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist and confession. I go to Confession weekly and Mass or Adoration of the Blessed Eucharist daily as does my wife, Mary Grace. I don’t know what I would do without the blessedness of the Eucharist and the forgiveness of Confession.”

I am tearing as I read this. This is the stuff that should be posted on the e5 website. There is nothing here of men imaged as SWAT teams, but as sinners who seek to be holy men and beter helpmates to their wives as fellow pilgrims. He gives a short but convincing explanation about how the mortification dynamic works with prayer, the sacraments, and in the larger context of a community of faith. There is nothing here of an eletist group or a boy’s club. Whatever he read, this man filled in the gaps for himself, and now he does it for us.

He closes by saying:

“It was so great to read about e5 and the direct defense against all these atrocities against women [attacks on our virtue of chastity] through fasting especially to foster respect for the wife that I love, even though in my weak humanity I fail, the children whom we conceived, who have taught me to understand the depth of the need for maturity and holiness in all areas of life and the Church, without whom I would be lost and overcome in the struggle against sin, and the people of God, whom I am called to humbly serve one person at a time.”

If you want to read the whole article, here is the link:
http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeoqpd6/pnfpn/lifecyc/Lifecycles4-18.pdf

Those wanting to read more about e5 men can follow these links:

e5 Men Website
http://www.e5men.org/pages/

Habisohn: How Real Men Sacrifice for Their Brides
http://www.catholicity.com/commentary/e5men1.html

Macfarlane: Husbands Crucified
http://www.catholicexchange.com/vm/index.asp?vm_id=2&art_id=17344

OSV: A Fast way for Husbands to Pray for Their Wives
http://www.osv.com/periodicals/show-article.asp?pid=786

Belief Net: The Fasting Masters of the 21st Century
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/122/story_12233_1.html

New Oxford Review: Sensitivity for Sensitive Guys
http://www.newoxfordreview.org/note.jsp?did=0703-notes-sensitive

COMMENTS

Eric Scheidler | squarezero.org |

To lay this [Macfarlane] debacle at the feet of Steve Habisohn and the e5men is shockingly unfair. Thousands of men (BTW, I am not one of them) have been participating for several years in the e5 program of fasting and prayer. The marital woes of one of these men hardly constitute a case against the entire program.

Steve Habisohn has never suggested that fasting alone is enough to secure a strong marriage. He has never suggested to men that they not communicate with their wives or share a family dinner. And is one day of fasting per month really destructive of the family meal?

There may be criticisms to be made about the e5 approach, but you offer nothing but a caricature. If you had contacted Habisohn yourself, you might have gotten a more nuanced perspective on what his group is about, including the many men — and women — who have benefited from the once-a-month fast.

Instead you re-hash the attacks against Habisohn and e5 that Bai Macfarlane has already offered far and wide, including the response of a diocesan official to a series of leading questions.

Eric Scheidler | squarezero.org |

Father, I want to make a further comment about your criticism of the e5 Men program. First, I should disclose that I am good friends with Steve Habisohn. He would be the first to agree that he and I do not see eye to eye on all matters, including the headship issue. Indeed, I am disappointed to see a critique of Habisohn’s approach so flawed by bias and sloppy documentation.

The evidence you present here is, in my view, deeply flawed. First, the e-mail quoted at the top or your article. We have NO CONTEXT for this e-mail message whatsoever. We do not know who the “friend” is, or what that person’s relationship may have been to Steve Habisohn — what he may know or believe about the situation which informs his words.

Absent any context, his words look like irresponsible, even misogynistic counsel. They are given the color of grand generalizations about the authority of a husband. But he may very well have intended those words to a particular women about whose situation he knew something WE do not.

Which again points to the singular character of this whole business: what the public knows about the Macfarlanes it knows from only one of them. How, for example, did this e-mail fall into the hands of Bai Macfarlane or her associates? Was permission granted by Habisohn for what clearly is a private communication to be broadcast far and wide on the Internet? Could it be that the “friend” is none other than Bai herself?

Likewise, the critique from Cardinal George’s assistant Fr. John Lodge: How was the e5 Men organization presented to Fr. Lodge? Were, as it appears, statements made to one particular person construed as general laws advocated by Habisohn? Who is the “wife of the friend” involved in this communication? Why were these letters made public, and again, was permission given to do so?

A final remark on the question of demons and marital strife. There is the legitimate problem of a certain kind of pious Catholic seeing a demon behind every challenge or squabble. It’s particularly unsettling to have one’s own role in a dispute attributed to demonic influence!

You say that “Marriages are not principally about powers and principalities, they are about dirty diapers, crying babies, doctors’ bills, making beds, fixing the car, going to church as a family, sleeping as husband and wife naked together under the covers, and so much more.”

I put it to you that you are presenting here a FALSE DILEMMA. These simply aspects of marital life are the very plain upon which the battle between good and evil takes place, where one’s guardian angel and those devils whose special task it is to seek the ruin of one’s soul struggle for decisive influence.

Satan hates marriage, just like he hates each one of us, and he’s going to try to break through every chink and crack he can. Changing diapers! How easy it is for a man to leave this to his wife — selfishly. And how easy for a wife to resent him for it — bitterly. Even this seemingly mundane thing can be matter of real spiritual battle.

To say that a paritcular issue doesn’t involve the “cosmic battle” is, in fact, to say that it doesn’t involve grace. If the battle between good and evil doesn’t involve diapers, then there’s no GRACE involved in diapers, and any mother or father could tell you — and I speak here as the father of seven — that it’s ONLY through grace that you survive the diaper years.

Fixing the car! I know all too well how Satan tempts me when I’m working on a mechanical repair. He would love nothing more for me to lose my temper, swear, rudely rebuke the son who’s too slow getting me the wrench I need. Doctor bills! A man is a fool not to pray for patience before discussing doctor bills with his wife; and no, not because she tries his patience, but because he is a hot-headed fool whose real worry for his families financial state is perverted all too easily into angy words.

And is it necessary to say that the spiritual battle is waged in the midst of that nakedness between the sheets. Pope John Paul II of happy memory said just that — “Becoming one as husband and wife, they find themselves in the situation in which the powers of good and evil fight and compete against each other” (Wed. Audience, 6/27/84).

He connects this fight directly to the marital embrace itself, noting the prayer of Tobiah before lying together with Sarah as her husband.

John Paul II knew that Satan wants nothing more than to undermine the harmony of husband and wife in the marital bed. Tobiah knew it. You ought to know it too.